What We Learned from a Visit to Washington DC & how You can Help

On May 2nd, I traveled to Washington DC with YALSA President Sarah Hill and other YALSA members to participate in National Library Legislative Day.  We focused our conversations on

Sarah and I met with Congressional staff who work for committees that are relevant to libraries, such as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.  We participated in seven meetings in seven hours and here’s what we learned from this speed-dating with Congressional staff:

  • Your emails, calls, Tweets and letters are working—especially your calls and letters—but we need more. Everyone we met admitted that Congress is pretty old school.  So, calls and letters get more attention than social media or email.  This includes letters to the editor and op-ed pieces in local newspapers.  Please keep sending letters and making calls!  As of May 4, only 20 Senators have signed the letter supporting federal funds for libraries in FY18.  Check out this earlier YALSAblog post for sample messages and a ready to use letter to the editor (docx).

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Contact your Senator to Support Library Funding

Last month library supporters were called on to contact their Rep in the House.  Now it’s the Senate’s turn!  Please email, Tweet and/or call the offices of your two U.S. Senators and ask them to sign on to the “dear appropriator” letters for two critical pieces of library funding: the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL).  Please share this widely and encourage your colleagues, coworkers, friends and family to contact the offices of their Senators as well.  This is an extremely tough budget year, and without huge grassroots support (i.e. thousands of voters contacting Congress), the nation’s libraries will lose this critical funding.  The deadline to sign the letter is May 19.

  • Go here to contact your Senators’ offices: http://cqrcengage.com/ala/home –ready to use messages are waiting for you!
  • Check up on your Senators after you contact them.  Use ALA’s easy tracking tool  to find out if your Senators signed the letters.  Then thank them if they did, or contact them again if they haven’t yet done so.
  • To learn more about the issue, read this ALA blog post.

Thank you for all that you do to support teens and libraries and don’t forget we have everything you need to be a part of National Library Legislative Day, May 2, on the wiki as well as 10 other ways you can take action right now to support libraries!

-Beth Yoke

P.S. If you’ve been trying by phone to reach your Senator and the lines are busy, try Resistbot instead

An IMLS Overview

If you are anything like the general population you know that the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) does SOMETHING with libraries (and museums) but you really have no idea what it does. We hope by now that you know that IMLS is on this year’s chopping block, per the White House’s proposed budget, but aren’t sure how it will affect you, and why it’s a big deal.

And these cuts are a Big Deal. The IMLS is fairly young, as government organizations go, having been created in 1996 by the Museum and Library Services Act (the act combined the Institute of Museum services and the Library Programs Office), and is reauthorized every 5 years, but it touches every state and US Territory in the country. IMLS now supports all libraries- public, academic, research, tribal, and special as well as every type of museum- from children’s to planetariums to history. Over 158,000 museums and libraries combined benefit from IMLS funds every year.

The majority of IMLS support to libraries is the Grants to States program. Grants to States is the biggest source of federal funding for libraries across the country. It is a bit of a misnomer, because these grants aren’t competitive or something that requires an application. Every state automatically receives funding from Grants to States based on population needs, over $150 million dollars in funds is distributed to libraries every year through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). Each state receives a base amount of $680,000 and each Territory receives a base amount of $60,000, which is then matched at the state level. (To find out how your state uses LSTA funds visit the IMLS State Profile Page.)

Each state or US Territory is able to determine how they will allot these funds, and many states distribute their library portion through their State Library. These funds support a variety of library functions and operations. States use this money to fund staff at state library agencies, continuing education for library workers, Talking Books programs (books for the blind and physically handicapped), broadband internet access, programs for teens, seniors, and at-risk populations, access to databases and downloadable books, and much more. Visit your state library’s web site to learn more about all of the resources and services they have available to help you help teens.

The IMLS also supports libraries through competitive grants, research, surveys, and policy development. The IMLS works in partnership with state agencies and museums to collect data and distribute the collected information to state and federal agencies. This data is used to identify the upcoming trends in library and museum services and to identify target needs across the country. These trends are studied and policies for best practices and plans to improve them are established. Initiatives on InterLibrary Loan, staffing, library governance, collections and more are developed through these extensive surveys and research.

Without the funding from the IMLS libraries will be facing far-reaching budget and service cuts. We will see the funds for things such as the databases we depend on for research dwindle, the funds for downloadable content dry up, and our state agencies will likely lose valuable staff that support our work at the local level. Statewide library funds will effectively be halved by these measures, putting library services and libraries at risk.

How can you help?

Facts and figures drawn from https://www.imls.gov/

Contact your House Rep’s Office & Ask for Support on Two Library Bills

Please contact the office of your Representative in the House and ask them to sign on to the “dear appropriator” letters for two critical pieces of library funding: the Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL).  Please share this widely and encourage your colleagues, coworkers, friends and family to contact the offices of their Reps as well.  This is an extremely tough budget year, and without huge grassroots support (i.e. thousands of voters contacting Congress), the nation’s libraries will lose this critical funding.  The deadline to sign the letter is April 3.

Thank you for all that you do to support teens and libraries!

-Beth Yoke

P.S. If you’ve been trying by phone to reach your Rep and the lines are busy, try Resistbot instead

Take 60 Seconds to Help Teens & Libraries

Please email or phone your members of Congress and ask them to sign the “Dear Appropriator letter supporting library funding via these two programs: LSTA (Library Services Technology Act) and IAL (Innovative Approaches to Literacy).”  Then, ask all other library supporters you know to do the same by no later than March 20th.  Contact information for Congress members is here: http://cqrcengage.com/ala/home (just put in your zip code in the box on the lower right side).

To see whether your Members of Congress signed these letters last year, view the FY 2015 Funding Letter Signees document (pdf). If so, please be sure to thank and remind them of that when you email or call!  More information can be found on ALA’s blog, District Dispatch.  For more information about LSTA, check out this document LSTA Background and Ask (pdf).  For more information on IAL, view School Libraries Brief (pdf)

Thank you for taking this step to ensure that our nation’s teens continue to have access to library staff and services that will help them succeed in school and prepare for college and careers!

-Beth Yoke

Support Your Libraries Now!

Did you know that there are two major letters circulating around Congress today that will have a direct impact on libraries? Did you also know that our representatives only have until tomorrow to be informed of these letters and get their signatures on them to support library legislation? This means, we must act now!

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Year of the Teen

A couple of weeks ago Maureen Ambrosino, Youth Services Consultant for the Central MA Regional Library System, spoke with a group of library school students about the LSTA grant she received in 2007. The grant project titled Year of the Teen focuses on providing training and professional development for librarians on how to successfully meet teen needs in the library.

In her presentation, Maureen mentioned that during the grant year someone asked her, “Is this an international thing, The Year of the Teen?” Maureen’s answer was, “No, it’s something I decided.”

That question and response got me thinking. What if every library around the country – or the world perhaps – decided that 2008 was the year of the teen? What might that mean for teen services? Would it mean:

  • All library staff, teen devoted staff and non-teen devoted staff, would be trained in order to be adept at serving teens successfully. All library staff would not pre-judge teens and know to treat them in exactly the same way as they treat other library customers.
  • Budgets for teen materials would be on par with the budgets of other departments in a school or library. Teen library staff would be able to spend the $ provided for materials that teens want and need without fear of reprisal for purchasing something that might be controversial or not of the highest literary quality.
  • Every library would have a space (or work towards a space) that shows teens in the community that the library is a place for them to hang-out, be themselves, be comfortable, work on school assignments, collaborate, etc.
  • Teens with interests beyond those related to books would be welcome and served by the library. Teens whose main interest is music. Or teens who are interested in technology. Or teens that want to create media-based content. All of these teens, along with those who are lovers of the book, would find programs and services to meet their needs available from their school and public library
  • Teens would have access to full-time staff devoted to serving teen needs and interests. All of the hours that a library is open there would be a librarian available just to teens and their services.
  • Technology available to teens in the library would be up-to-date and of the caliber required of teens living in the early part of the 21st century. Hardware and software would be available that supports gaming, social networking, media creation, and other teen technological needs.
  • Librarians serving teens have the ability to act quickly in order to keep up with the current and rapidly changing needs and interests of teens. When a new technology, form of literature, form of entertainment, etc. that is of interest to teens appears, librarians can integrate these new tools and materials without having to jump through extensive bureaucratic hoops.
  • Library staff is able to meet teens where they (the teens) are and do not require that teens come to where the librarian is. Services are available in a variety of formats in order to meet the needs of teens who can and can not visit the physical library space.
  • Every librarian develops programs and services for teens with input from the teens in the community. No library service for the age group is initiated without teens being a part of the development and implementation process.

It’s possible to go on with the list of what a year of the teen might bring in terms of programs and services from a library. What if you were to name 2008 the year of the teen in your library? What would you be able to achieve?

Of course, every year should be the year of the teen but why not start with 2008 and then keep it going for 2009, 2010, 20011….